With training camp just around the corner in the National Football League, I continue my look at the potential impacts of rookies this season for each team in the NFL. The team up is the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are a talent rich football team that has struggled to get over the post season hump during quarterback Andy Dalton’s tenure. This team has great depth and came into this draft looking for the best players available for their team. Each Bengals pick will be graded on a scale of one to ten. A score of one is a little to no impact this season and a ten is an immediate high impact player. The Bengals made eight selections in the 2014 NFL draft.
Darqueze Dennard (Cornerback) – 1st round (Pick 24)
This pick was a steal for the Bengals. Dennard is a great press corner with incredible intangibles. He lacks stellar athleticism but makes up for it with solid mechanics and great eyes and anticipation. While he isn’t the most physical corner he consistently puts himself in position to make big plays on defense. Dennard is set up to fight for serious playing time with incumbent Dre Kirkpatrick struggling over the last few seasons. He will likely have to win the job in training camp but don’t expect that to be a problem for the Michigan State University alum. I expect him to be at least the starting nickel corner in week one. With Leon Hall getting up there in age, Bengals fans are looking at the new leader of the secondary unit.
Impact Projection: 7 out 10
Jeremy Hill (Running back) – 2nd round (Pick 55)
After adding Giovani Bernard last year this pick was a bit of a puzzling one. Not to say Hill isn’t a good prospect, but the combo of Gio and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was stellar last year and both remain on the roster. Hill is more similar to Green-Ellis as a punishing straight line back and goal line stud. However their drawbacks are similar as neither are known as being solid receiving threats or having great elusiveness. The question remains on how many backs the Bengals plan to keep heading into the season. Hill does have character concerns which could be a factor as well. If all three are still on the roster it would take an injury to get Hill serious playing time. If they decide to move on from Green-Ellis, Hill would likely serve as Gio’s primary backup and fill the role of his predecessor. Only time will tell on Jeremy’s impact this season.
Impact Projection: 3 out of 10 (with Green-Ellis)
Impact Projection: 6 out of 10 (without Green-Ellis)
Will Clarke (Defensive End) – 3rd round (Pick 88)
After seeing Michael Johnson head to Tampa Bay in free agency, the Bengals knew they should stock up on pass rushing talent. They went high risk high reward with Clarke. Clarke has great size and overall athleticism to be an effective player. However he is incredibly raw. He doesn’t possess a lot of pass rushing moves and he doesn’t play to his size and athleticism properly. He often gets himself caught up in a block and gets stuck. However he has a great attitude, is very coachable, and has a very high ceiling if he strives to progress. This year he is not likely to crack the rotation too often with Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, Margus Hunt, and sleeper Wallace Gilberry all fighting for time at the same position. Clarke is an investment towards the future.
Impact Projection: 4 out of 10
Russel Bodine (Center) – 4th round (Pick 111)
Bodine is a really solid selection for the Bengals. He is a big burly offensive lineman with great upper body strength. He is a fierce competitor and plays with a passion on the gridiron. He has the versatility to play center or guard along the line. His athleticism could be better, as he tends to let his mechanics slip as the play progresses. If Russel shows some serious progress in camp and in the preseason he could certainly obtain the starting center job from Trevor Robinson and T.J. Johnson. This kid has some moxie that should propel him to early success on this team.
Impact Projection: 6 out of 10
A.J. McCarron (Quarterback) – 5th round (Pick 164)
The former University of Alabama quarterback and three-time national champion saw himself fall all the way to the fifth round in the 2014 NFL draft. Truth be told he is great leader and game managing quarterback, poison to every passers ears. A.J. does not have great arm strength and often fails to hit the deep ball with accuracy. He needs to learn the speed of the game and progress his decision-making skills under duress. With Andy Dalton entrenched in the starting role this season, McCarron will be on clipboard duty.
Impact Projection: 1 out 10
Marquis Flowers (Linebacker) – 6th round (Pick 212)
Flowers is a rangy, athletic linebacker who moves well in space and can track down faster ball carriers. However his mechanics are raw and his playing speed isn’t up to snuff with his athleticism. Flowers will need to show a more serious attitude and work ethic to stick on this team. If he makes the roster he should make a nice impact on the special teams unit.
Impact Projection: 3 out of 10
James Wright (Wide Receiver) – 7th round (239)
Wright had little playing time at the wide receiver position at Louisiana State University with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry commanding most of the production. He needs considerable work and reps to get a real feel for the position at the pro level. He does have special teams experience and if he sticks on the roster that is likely where he will make his impact.
Impact Projection: 1 out of 10
Lavelle Westbrooks (Cornerback) – 7th round (Pick 252)
Westbrooks is an average defensive back with decent tackling abilities. He played some weaker competition at Georgia Southern but has the length and traits to mold into a decent backup defensive back. He is going to have to take his time to learn the game at the pro speed and it will be a tough transition.
Impact Projection: 1 out of 10
The Bengals came into the 2014 NFL draft with the ability to go best player available and just build on their already impressive depth. They were able to grab an immediate impact player in Dennard, as well as a few possible 2014 gems in Bodine and Hill. Much of this Bengal class however is directed toward keeping this team competitive and stacked heading into the future. Guys like Clarke, McCarron and Flowers all have good potential heading a few years down the road. You may not see this class make a huge impact for the Bengals in 2014 but expect to hear their names in the seasons to come.
Look for the Cleveland Brown rookie projections soon! Joe Kleine is also co-host of thefinsradio.com show The Direct Snap, alongside fellow PhinPhanatic and Rant Sports writer Tyler McMullen (also on facebook search Tyler McMullen – Rant Sports). Please check out our facebook at www.facebook.com/theofficialdirectsnap or check us out on Twitter at the handle, @Direct_Snap. Our free to listen show about the NFL is on blogtalkradio.com/finsradio is coming back July 26th, live 8:30 PM Eastern time, be sure to give us a shout!